This article was published on September 5th, 2019
Not your gay uncle’s pride, Southern Decadence has nearly 50 years of being the gay event of the season. What began as a tea party gathering of queer friends one hot August afternoon, where the dress code was “come as your favorite Southern Decadent”, is now a Labor Day long-weekend festival where thousands of gay men come from all over the world to the capital of Cajun Country: New Orleans. Southern Decadence lived up to its name in 2019 and continues to make New Orleans the ultimate party gaycation weekend in the United States. Here’s why.
Southern Decadence doesn’t come with rules, a schedule, or requirements. It’s as easy as a gathering of friends in New Orleans. Southern Decadence truly is a ‘Make-It-What-You-Want’ weekend.
This year people came to enjoy the delicious Cajun and Creole fare, listen to jazz music, experience the history and culture on cemetery, plantation, and ghost tours, sip coffee and eat beignets, and shop for antiques and collectibles in the French Quarter. OK, those were the activities most people did, in addition to drinking at the gay bars, going to the Grand Marshal parade, going to the pool and circuit parties, and maybe even getting down and dirty at the sex clubs.
Thursday and Friday saw people flying in for the weekend, to head to different parties and events spread across the French Quarter.
Throughout the weekend there were great parties and events held at bars and hotels located in the French Quarter, with DJ’s, go-go dancers, and adult entertainers, who are popular in gay culture. The entire weekend was also a great opportunity for people watching and celebrity sightings; people from all walks, from your every-day-gay to porn stars, actors to circuit kweens, come for the popular gay weekend gathering. Smartphones were constantly at the ready to capture selfies with friends and icons from the gay community.
Notably missing this year was the Friday night tractor lights parade and the Saturday evening parade, but that didn’t stop the French Quarter from being the popping place for everyone at all the gay bars and join in the fun.
Saturday morning kicked off with Poppy Tooker, a local NOLA legend with a captivating personality who is also an award-winning author, TV personality, and host of NPR-affiliated radio show “Louisiana Eats!”, signing her new book, Drag Queen Brunch. Drag Queen Brunch combines queer and drag culture, New Orleans cuisine, history, and all things brunch in one delicious cookbook. The free book signing was held at the The Shop at The Collection and the museum galleries of The Historic New Orleans Collection.
Saturday afternoon saw the 4th Annual Southern Decadence Lady Boys doing Lady things. Over 20 guys dressed up in dresses and sun hats, making their way, clacking their circuit fans, to bars and restaurants throughout the French Quarter. “Ladies. Photo. Ladies!” could be heard, summoning the group together for a group photo with people excited to have their photo taken with the handsome men decked out in dresses.
Saturday evening Bourbon at St Anne’s, outside of Napoleon’s Itch, was packed as people joined for the free Southern Decadence Extravaganza. The free concert was hosted by Patrik Gallineaux, the Global LGBT Brand Ambassador for Stoli, who sponsored the event, and featured music and performances by Ultra Nate, Jeanie Tracy, and Beth Sacks.
On Sunday afternoon the Grand Marshal Southern Decadence parade wrapped through the French Quarter, with thousands of people lining the streets to see the elaborate costumes, bands, and entries, and of course the Grand Marshals, Countess C Alice and Will Antill.
Immediately following the parade began the annual bead tossing tradition. “Show me your dick” was shouted from the Oz and Bourbon Pub balconies, as guys standing on the balconies would dangle beads to the crowds below. Those daring and brave enough to expose their dick were rewarded, being showered in beads from the balconies above.
Another popular spot late Sunday afternoon and into the evening was The Blacksmith Shop, where people gathered in the street to dance and to enjoy the famous Purple Drink.
There was a noticeable crackdown this year on sexual activities in public and in the bars. Rawhide was required to add lighting, as an example. It put a damper on the fun for some people’s Wreckadence plans, and for others, it wasn’t a big deal at all. It certainly was a topic of conversation amongst attendees.
The God squad protesters were out again this year, but with a noticeably smaller presence. While violence is not tolerated in the gay community, many Southern Decadence attendees reveled in the opportunity to chant back, take selfies, and kiss in front of them. There were many occasions where Decadence attendees threw their drinks at the protesters, and even managed to chase them off Bourbon Street a couple of times—to the delight of the massive crowds of on-lookers.
While the activities are amazing and a lot of fun, many found the need to take a break. While cooling off in air conditioned hotel rooms was an easy to-go choice, especially to freshen up between activities, others choice to grab a ‘geaux cup’ and hop aboard one of the street cars. For just $1.25, you can sit on one of the historic street cars and take a ride into history, with no effort, and best of call, it’s was perfect way to continue to hang out with a group of friends.
Next year Southern Decadence attendees can look forward to flying in/out of New Orleans from a new terminal at MSY. A brand-new terminal is set to open in fall 2019, offering more shops, services, and most importantly, bar and restaurant options. This will make New Orleans even more accessible in the near future.
Start making plans now to attend Southern Decadence 2020. Stay where you can be centrally located in the French Quarter, just blocks away from the bars and action, at the Chateau Lemoyne. The property features large, spacious rooms, outdoor courtyard pool, and a brand-new bar/restaurant. It’s the gay place to stay because it’s affordable, convenience, and comfortable.
New Orleans is a great place to visit any time of the year, especially for Halloween, Mardi Gras, Pride, and Southern Decadence. Start planning your trip today with the help of Visit New Orleans.